Alex Sandro: Making United’s Defence Great Again

 • by Ryan Baldi
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A winner of nine major titles in his club career and twice a Champions League finalist, Alex Sandro is rightfully regarded as one of the best left-backs in world football.

The Juventus star, capped ten times for Brazil, was outstanding for the Bianconeri as they wrapped up a sixth straight Serie A title last season, but reports suggest he is now looking for a move away from Turin.

Strongly linked with both Manchester United and Chelsea in January, the Blues pulled out of a potential £53million deal and opted to sign Roma’s Emerson Palmieri, clearing the way for José Mourinho to sign the former Porto star.

The speculation surrounding his future and his subsequent discontent at Juventus has led to a dip in form for Sandro this season, but he remains a world-class player who would improve almost any team on the planet.

Who is Alex Sandro?

Sandro began his career with Atletico Paranaense in his native Brazil, before being loaned to Santos in 2011 after an unusual deal saw his registration sold to investors, using Deportivo Maldonado as a proxy club.

It was while playing alongside Neymar at Santos that Sandro formed a key part of the club’s 2011 Copa Libertadores-winning side, impressing with his dynamic forays down the flank and alerting European scouts to his vast potential.

Sold to Porto for €9.5million in July 2011, Sandro acclimated to life in Europe after a bedding-in period in his first season, and began starring either on the left side of defence or further forward as a winger for the Portuguese side.

Twice a league champion in his four seasons with Porto, Sandro made the step up to one of Europe’s mega clubs in the summer of 2015, signing for Serie A champions Juventus in a €25million deal.

Initially forced to share left-back/left wing-back duties with former Manchester United and France veteran Patrice Evra, Sandro ousted the experienced defender to make the position his own last term, featuring 43 times as the Old Lady claimed a sixth successive Scudetto and reached the Champions League final.

What are Alex Sandro’s main strengths?

Versatile and well-rounded, Sandro is able to slot comfortably into any position down the left side, offering his side the tactical diversity of being able to switch between a back three and a back four, as Juventus often did in-game last season.

His most notable attributes come to the fore in attacking situations, where his outstanding dribbling skills often see him wriggle out of tight situations to find space and push Juventus forward.

His crossing is both unpredictable and dangerous – varying between the kind of low centres that Gonzalo Higuaín thrives on and lofted crosses for more aerially dominant forwards such as team-mate Mario Mandžukić.

Sandro proved a consistent threat for Juve last term, averaging 1.4 accurate crosses and 1.7 key passes per 90 minutes in Serie A, contributing four assists and scoring three times himself.

Although he is not a regular scorer, shooting powerfully and accurately with his left foot, the Brazilian is capable of spectacular strikes from outside the box.

Despite his attacking instincts, Sandro is responsible and effective defensively. Last season, he averaged an impressive 2.4 tackles and 2.2 interceptions per 90, while the fact he was only dribbled past 0.6 times per 90 is evidence of his tenacious ability to halt an opponent’s progression.

What are Alex Sandro’s main weaknesses?

In truth, spotting weaknesses in Sandro’s game is difficult. As is the case with most full-backs whose craft has been forged in Brazil, he is very attack minded, but that does not mean he is neglectful of his defensive duties.

A capable one-v-one defender, Sandro works well as part of an organised backline, and has benefitted from being fielded alongside world-class centre-backs during his time in Turin who have helped mould him into a more rounded defender.

However, after having his head turned by Premier League overtures in the summer, Sandro has been inconsistent this term, with coach Massimilaino Allegri recently admitting: “we haven’t seen the real Alex Sandro yet”.

How much would Alex Sandro cost

Chelsea were believed to be close to signing the gifted Brazilian defender during the summer transfer window, only for Juventus to slap a staggering £80million price tag on the 26-year-old.

It was reported at the time that Sandro was keen on a switch to Stamford Bridge, but the Blues were ultimately priced out of a move due the Bianconeri‘s exorbitant demands.

Reports suggest the Italian champions have reduced their asking price, but Chelsea won’t move again due to the form of Marcos Alonso. United are in much desperate need for a left-back and could agree a deal in January.

Should Premier League clubs sign Alex Sandro?

Of the two Premier League sides most strongly linked with a move for Sandro, Manchester United and Chelsea, it is definitely the Red Devils who are most in need of a player of his profile and calibre.

Unless Conte decides to part ways with Marcos Alonso, the Premier League champions have depth and quality in the left-back area.

Mourinho is far from convinced by Luke Shaw and the former Southampton youngster is another who could leave Old Trafford this month.

Signing Sandro would be a massive coup for the Red Devils and would be a step in the right direction towards building a defensive line which would be the envy of the other top six clubs.